How awesome is this? I was listening to/watching the Detroit Symphony Orchestra play Mozart Piano concerto No. 22 with Emmanuel Ax and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 with Leonard Slatkin conducting. For free. In the desert. Where I can wave at Mexico from my house. I’ve never stepped foot in Detroit Symphony Hall but I got to listen to a fabulous concert on my computer as I did a little painting. Basically, a few months ago, I signed up for a free subscription to watch the DSO online when they had special concerts that would be broadcast live, in conjunction with Detroit Public Television. Unfortunately for me, it was a live deal, so if I wanted to watch, I had to actually be home during the concert, which pretty music never happened. But I would get emails from the DSO telling me about all the fabulous stuff they’d be playing and I’d sigh and say,” Oh, I wish I could hear that.” Until today. When I got an email inviting me to hear an encore broadcast of a concert from last February on demand. Basically, they made the Mahler 5 concert available from July 20-23, so theoretically, you could watch that sucker at any time of day: while eating dinner, scrubbing your toilets or having a cup of tea. To name a few.
So why do I like this so much? A bunch of reasons. The orchestra sounds great, the principal horn, Karl Pittuch, is fabulous in the 3rd movement of the Mahler and the user interface is pretty easy to understand. When you log on to the concert, it asks for some basic info like your name, where you live and how many people are watching but I don’t think that’s too invasive and quite frankly, is a small price to pay for a free concert. I also love how they’ve modeled intermission chats with Slatkin and a Mahler expert after the halftime commentary that you’d see during a football or hockey game. Detroit is such a hockey town, so this makes a lot of sense. Even if I didn’t want to watch that bit, I can fast forward through it because it’s not live. I don’t have to get a babysitter, drive at least an hour and pay to park my car to get to the nearest concert hall. And I particularly like that I can expose the Little People to live classical music in short bits if I want, all in an environment where they won’t be disturbing anyone if they wiggle or ask questions. That last bit might be my favourite.
The other part of me wonders how they can afford to do this for free. The DSO recently had a long, drawn-out musician strike and was on the verge of a financial catastrophe. They do recommend (nicely) sending a donation if you hear something you like, but I have a feeling that this is a precursor to paying for the content, much like what the Berlin Philharmoniker is doing. The difference is, while some of us are willing to pay for concerts in Berlin from half a world away, how many of us would do the same for the orchestra from Motown, no matter how excellent? Does music have to be an exotic commodity for us to pay up? Or can we support things closer to home?
I wish them luck with this. I’ll be tuning in when I can, along with the Little People in short bursts.
- Symphony Gets Creative, Surpasses Fundraising Goal (detroit.cbslocal.com)